Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2010: The Year in Review Part I

In an effort to put the 2010 race season to bed I will attempt to capture some of what I deemed high lights and low lights throughout the year.  I'll let you, the reader discern for yourself where each segment fits.  Pounding out the year through the key board will hopefully afford me some closure to some of the best and worst cycling moments of the year and in some cases, my life.

Dedicated training for 2010 began in the fall of 2009.  I set my sights on the early classics with the Trans Iowa fixed as THE race.  I froze my fingers, toes, face and core through what seemed like never ending miles of winter riding.  The amount of road miles in the winter was more than I had ever done and some of the coldest.  As winter riders know it's always colder on the ROAD.  I didn't care as I knew the long hours on the road were what I needed to be ready come spring.  I planned several of the DBD rides for members and I simply "sat in" on others, but nonetheless I was determined to stay out there. 

Off the bike I thought about opportunities that might exist for me in the way of representing a brand.  I put together a plan and chased it down.  I floated my proposition to several companies and believe it or not there were more than a couple that were interested.  However, there was one that I really believed in and one that I felt gelled with my approach to cycling.  Enter SALSA CYCLES.    I began correspondence with 
Kid Riemer and soon enough I found myself typing a few letters to other companies explaining that I had found a home, but I appreciated their offer.  It was a match and it seemed to only grow stronger as the year progressed.

The SALSA kit now on my shoulders, I felt a strong desire to make 'em proud, yet felt no pressure as they never stressed results.  In an odd way that made me want to go faster, I liked it.  As the winter rolled on I focused on nutrition and losing weight.  I wanted to be skinny.  The way I figured it a climber can suffer, climbers are skinny.  I would be intent on changing myself to fit this role.  I am fortunate enough to have to ascend a very steep grade right out of the gates every day when I leave work.  I'd hit the mile long climb with a vengeance daily trying to shorten it each day, through the time it took me to get to the top.

THE RAGNORAK 105:  The "Rag" officially kicks off the season and is typically used as a race that gauges competitors fitness and with the relentless bluffs on this course it's easy to tell who's been doing their home work.  Here I'd bump into the familiar faces that I hadn't seen since last season.  Also, I'd test the climbing legs as the "King of the Mountains" competition within this race adds a component not found in others. 

Not sure if I could go for the overall win and the KOM together, I decided that I'd focus my efforts on the climbing and then shoot for the best overall position I could gather.  Poor positioning on my part on the last significant climb allowed super strong rider Charly Tri to get the jump on the climb with Ryan Horkey fast on his wheel.  I did my best to recover from the missed opportunity and took huge risks as we descended into the valley of Red Wing, Mn.  Horkey and I would work well together in an attempt to reel in Tri, but it was not to be as we ran out of real estate.  I was fortunate enough to take 2nd overall and nab the KOM in the process.  It was a good day on the bike, despite hitting the deck on one of the climbs - Don't Ask.

TRANS IOWA:  I'd celebrate my birthday on the bike during this race.  The Holy Grail of gravel beasts is the T.I. in my mind.  Coming off a 2nd place finish in 2009 I wanted to "show up" for this one.  I put all my "emotional eggs" in one basket as I was determined to leave it all on the course.  However, biblical rains soaked the region previous to the race and throughout the event.  Farrow, Buffington, Tri and I (the chase group behind Gorilla and Meiser) toiled through the mud for 13 hours before calling off the effort in a group think debocle that spun downward in an out of control manner.  I was a part of that "group think" process and the tipping point for me was when I saw a plastic bottle floating down the center of the main street.  That small check point town with a very weird name would be the end of the T.I. for me.  It was a bitter pill to swallow, especially when I got home, put all the gear away and came to realize that I didn't finish the race.  This resulted in one of the lowest points I've ever felt on a bike, the failed Trans Iowa of 2010.

12 HOURS OF NORTHERN KETTLES:  Finally, I'm on the mountain bike.  This would be my first race on "Big Mama" as well as the first race of the Wisconsin Mountain Bike Series.  I was a series participant and had my eye on a 1st place finish in the 12 hour solo division.  I love the Northern Kettles course as I feel it suits my style of riding and it sits early in the season so I was hoping for a good finish.  I jumped for the lead about 45 minutes into the day and never looked back.  It was a beautiful day and the bike performed perfectly.  I did my best to keep the low points short and to keep running from the field.  I was able to cross the line in 1st place that day after 102 miles of single track and 11 hours and 50 minutes of riding.  The part that sticks out the most was the finish, two guys at a timing table that simply said, "Good job Tim".  "Thanks", I said as I rode to my car and started putting my gear away.  Classic!

THE DIRTY KANZA 200:  The events that took place over the 15 hours after the start of the race are hard to sum up.  I wrote a piece (Rising from the Gravel) for this blog and ultimately Salsa's website after the race that ended up being almost as epic as the event.  I suffered more in Kansas than I ever have.  The heat (105 degrees with high humidity) began to gnaw at my will to live, literally.  I rode the 2nd 100 mile leg with Joe Meiser in an effort that I believe bonded us in a way that can't really be explained.  We fought the course as if it had a life force of it's own.  Finishing that event goes down as one of the biggest things I've ever accomplished on a bike or in my life.  I was lucky enough to take 5th place with Joe right next to me.  We stumbled around that downtown area for about an hour mumbling to ourselves about how destroyed we were.  It scared me. 

THUNDERDOWN IN THE UNDERDOWN:  The second WEMS race of the season for me.  This one took place in the Underdown forest of the master single track builder, Chris Schotz.  The course was the stuff mountain bike riders dream of.  A huge 20 something mile lap that rolled through what seemed to be different biospheres.  This course was purely a thing of beauty.  The race however, would see me doing battle with none other than fellow DBD'er "Big Buff".  BB was tackling this monster on a single speed while I pressed on with my fully suspended 29'er ('Big Mama').  The climbing in this course was steep and technical, I couldn't believe how Big Buff was working through it on his single.  I resigned that it was his race.  Suddenly, late into the final lap I saw my training partner laboring up a long slow climb.  I would take him on this old rail road grade, wish him "good luck", then attempt to PIN the final 8 miles of the lap.  It was bitter sweet passing Big Buff out there, but hey, I wanted to win too.  I managed to gap the super human by about 10 minutes in order to grab my second win of the WEMS.

LEVIS/TROW 100 MILER:  Good 'ole Levis rolled around in mid July and the depth of summer was upon me along with several racing hours.  It didn't make things much easier when in the pre-race meeting the director announced that he changed the course making it longer, more technical and with more climbing.  A collective gasp could be felt among the solo riders as this changed every one's mind set.  I'm not sure about the other competitors, but I tend to spend about a week thinking about the race and planning how I want things to go, so when suddenly you're told that you're plan can go out the window it really changes things.  Typically the Levis 100 miler takes around 9 hours, now we were looking at about 13.  I felt a bit defeated before they even said "Go!".  I would run this race with Big Buff (again) and Farrow this time.  We'd be racing for honor.  In hind site I know that I played the whole thing wrong and went out too hard.  I was concerned halfway through as to how tired I was.  Meanwhile, Big Buff had slipped away and was looking strong.  Farrow was battling the same mental demons I was.  I called my race at about the 11.5 hour mark taking 5th overall (3rd in geared class).  I was disappointed in how bad this course beat me up.  I was so tired!

Next up Part II:  The Salsa Two Four (Eight Hour Version)
                               12 Hours of Pitch Black Single Track
                               The Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival
                               The Heck of the North

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